Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Cleveland lost. For the eighth consecutive game, Cleveland failed to score more runs than their opponent. The eighth installment in their losing streak saw them get blasted, 8-1, by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a doubleheader.
The elusive third strike got the best of J.C. Mejia in another disastrous first inning for the rookie starter. After getting Brandon Lowe to ground out on the first pitch of the game, this is how Mejia started in each count against the next six batters he faced: 1-2, 0-2, 1-2, 0-2, 1-2, and 0-2. He was only able to retire two of them, allowing a walk to Ji-man Choi, a HBP to Austin Meadows, an RBI single to Vidal Bruján, and a two-run double to Kevin Kiermaier, spotting the Rays a 3-0 lead.
Franmil Reyes cut the deficit to 3-1 with an opposite field home run off of Tampa Bay starter Michael Wacha in the top of the second inning, but it wasn’t a two-run game for long.
With one out in the third inning, Mejia decided to change things up and avoid getting to two strikes, surrendering a double to Joey Wendle and a walk to Meadows. He promptly returned to his original strategy, getting Bruján to ground out on an 0-2 curveball. But then came a 3-2 sinker to Kiermaier, which didn’t really sink and ended up in the seats in right field for a three-run homer. Mejia made his exit, having thrown 73 pitches in 2.2 innings. Absent an out pitch that could mitigate his struggles in the early innings, Mejia’s potential as an effective starter seems limited.
As the Rays continued to add to their lead even after Mejia hit the showers, Cleveland’s lineup didn’t put up much of a fight at the plate, presumably in an attempt to conserve their energy and take their chances in the second game of the doubleheader. Bradley Zimmer was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning and Roberto Perez followed with a double, but Daniel Johnson struck out, Cesar Hernandez fouled out, and Amed Rosario grounded out to leave them stranded.
Wacha carved up Cleveland for his longest outing of the season. He only allowed four hits over six innings of the work, striking out six. Cleveland’s hitters were especially susceptible to his changeup, swinging and missing 12 times to contribute to a 40% CSW% for that pitch alone. Reyes’s home run was the only damage they were able to inflict against Wacha.
Daniel Johnson, in the starting lineup after being promoted from Triple-A this morning to replace Eddie Rosario, picked up where he left off in his previous two-game stint with the team this season. He was 0-for-3 with a strikeout, making him 0-for-12 with the big league club.